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Night Driving Safety Tips for Fleet Drivers

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If your company puts people out on the road for work - whether it’s delivering goods, providing services, or visiting job sites - you’re at risk of massive loss from accidents. Driving is dangerous. That’s why it’s crucial to teach your employees defensive driving techniques like LLLC: The Four Principles to Driving Safely.

However, sometimes we face conditions out on the road that increase risk. Unsafe conditions such as rain, snow, sleet, fog, and even night driving make the possibility of accidents more likely.

How can you or your employees make up for this unsafe behavior? We’ll share essential night driving safety tips in this article.

Why is Night Driving Dangerous?

Night driving is a typical occurrence, so it might surprise you to realize just how much it increases risk.

Night driving presents three unique challenges:

  • Reduced sight distance
  • Overdriving headlights
  • Fatigue

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Reduced Sight Distance

The best way to frame this topic is around the LLLC Driving Principles.

LLLC stands for Look Ahead, Look Around, Leave Room, and Communicate. These four principles help drivers see and avoid risk, make up for the mistakes of others, and prevent accidents.

Driving at night makes it harder to Look Ahead and Look Around for risk. In other words, it reduces sight distance.

Sight distance is how far you can see ahead of you. On a normal, clear day, drivers typically have a sight distance of anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds ahead of them. Those seconds are crucial, because by Looking Ahead 15 seconds, they can see risk with enough time to react.

Night driving makes this much harder.

With your low beam headlights on, you can see about 200 feet out in front of you.  While traveling at 25 miles per hour, that means you can only see about five and a half seconds ahead of you.

Following Distance GraphicThis is a problem because, with reduced sight distance, you don’t have the normal time to react. This can lead to:

  • Panic stops
  • Animal strikes
  • Rear-end collisions
  • Off-road events
  • Pedestrian and cyclist collisions

Some of these accidents are extremely serious, or even deadly. And without enough sight distance, it becomes harder to prevent them.

Overdriving Your Headlights

The concept of sight distance brings us to our next topic: overdriving your headlights. This is when you're driving too fast to stop once there is a hazard or object in view.

Defensive driving is all about seeing risk and stopping in time to avoid it. Part of stopping in time is sight distance, but stopping distance involves more.

Stopping distance is made up of three parts:

  • Perception distance (how far the car travels while you recognize a reason to stop)
  • Reaction distance (how far the car travels while you move your foot to the brake)
  • Braking distance (how far the car travels with the brakes applied)

Perception distance and reaction distance can be reduced by being a safe, attentive driver. Braking distance can be reduced by going slower.

The problem lies here: low-beam headlights illuminate the area in front of you about 200 feet. With street lights, you can typically see farther than that, but not by much.

A car traveling 25 miles per hour takes about 56 feet to come to a complete stop. That’s plenty of room left out of your 200. 

A car traveling 50 miles per hour takes about 193 feet to come to a complete stop. Seven feet is not a very comfortable cushion. 

A car traveling 60 miles per hour will take about 276 feet to come to a complete stop. So, if a pedestrian runs out into your view 200 feet ahead, there is no way to stop in time. That’s overdriving your headlights.

The good news is it’s easy to avoid overdriving your headlights. Just drive at a speed that allows you to come to a safe stop. High beams will increase your sight distance and make it harder to overdrive your headlights, but the best bet is to just slow down.

Fatigued Driving

The risk of fatigued driving goes up at night.

Most of us are not used to being up at late hours, and depending on your business model/industry, your drivers may have strange hours that require them to drive late.

The good news is that there are less people on the road. The bad news is that this increases the chances of fatigued/drowsy driving which is extremely dangerous.

We’ve talked about these dangers in a past article, but just understand that fatigued driving leads to severe and potentially fatal accidents.

Night driving safety means avoiding fatigue, being an attentive driver, and knowing when you’re too tired to continue.

Night Driving Tips/Policies

As simple and common as night driving is, clearly night driving safety is an important concern for light-duty fleets.

That being said, just like any accident, night driving accidents can be prevented. You just need to train your drivers on safe night driving tips and techniques.

First and foremost, your drivers must slow down and Leave more Room. In other words, decrease their speed and increase their following distance.

As we mentioned above, the primary concern with night driving is reduced sight distance. This means you won’t see risk as quickly as you normally would. The solution is just to slow down and leave more room in front of you.

However, there’s more to night-driving safety than just that. See below for a list of night driving safety tips and policies that fleets should implement:

    • Add an extra second of following distance at night. For most light-duty vehicles, this means a 4-second following distance, but more is always better.
    • Always use your headlights. It’s a good practice to drive with your headlights on at all times, but at a bare minimum, your drivers should use them once the sun begins to set all the way until the sun completely rises.
    • Safe high-beam headlights usage. High-beam headlights are a great way to increase sight distance, but they aren’t always safe. High beams can blind drivers in front of you and oncoming traffic. Never use high-beam headlights within 500 feet of oncoming traffic, and if you’re following behind someone, you should leave at least a 10-second following distance.
    • Get plenty of rest. Fatigue is cumulative. If you consistently fail to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, you cannot drive defensively. Have a consistent sleep schedule and, if you feel as though you’re at risk of falling asleep, pull over.
    • Look Around and check your mirrors. In LLLC training, we teach drivers to Look Around by changing their point of focus every 2 to 3 seconds and checking their mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds. This makes you a more alert driver and reduces the chances of getting surprised by someone driving recklessly at night.

Train Your Employees to Reduce Risk at Night

Depending on your industry, your employees are at risk of night-driving collisions. If you don’t train them, you’re rolling the dice hoping they (and everyone else on the road) do the right thing. That’s not going to happen.

You need to educate and train your employees on safe night driving techniques. If you invest in a program like The Fleet Safety Course, you can have access to dozens of professionally-produced courses specifically designed for light-duty fleets.

When you invest in the safety of your drivers, everyone gets home safely and you drastically reduce your cost of loss.

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